The high-frequency detectors in the space observatory Planck are cooled to –273.05°C, which makes them the coldest known objects in space. The instruments will be kept permanently chilled by a cooling system operating in the cascade mode (passive system to 50°K, Sorption Cooler to 18°K, 4°K Cooler to 4°K and Dilution Cooler to 0.1°K).
Planck - Tracking down the light of the Big Bang
ESA’s Planck research satellite will help scientists “travel back in time” 13.8 billion years to the beginnings of the universe and detect its “first light”. The satellite’s two telescope mirrors developed by Astrium in Friedrichshafen have a carbon-fibre sandwich design and will play a key role in capturing what is known as cosmic radiation. They will focus the incident microwave radiation onto two highly sensitive instruments. Astrium Spain provided the structure of the service module and the electronic components for the Planck cooling as well as the instruments HFI and LFI.
Cosmic background radiation is a relic from the dawn of our universe. It began to form just a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang, when the temperature of the universe was still several thousand degrees. During this period, free protons and electrons – which diverted the direction of the radiation – joined to form neutral hydrogen atoms, and the universe became transparent.
The Planck space telescope will measure this radiation in nine different wave bands over a period of up to two-and-a-half years from its position near the second Lagrange point using a high-frequency and a low-frequency instrument.
By detecting the faintest temperature differences, Planck will not only be able to examine the early stages of our universe, but will hopefully also provide answers to vital cosmological questions:
What exactly happened during the Big Bang?
What types of matter, radiation and energy is the universe made of today?
How old is it, and how did its structures form?
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